"This budget proposes a gross municipal expenditure of $10,647,576," Rockland City Manager James Smith announced May 9. "That is just a $3,498 increase in our gross municipal expenditures and a zero percent increase in the city's mil rate."

This was part of a written statement which the city manager read during the presentation of his proposed 2014 city budget.

According to the budget summary provided at the meeting, an average home in Rockland with an assessed value of $185,000 would see an increase of $74.27 in property taxes if this budget is passed. However, that increase is attributed to an anticipated 4 percent increase in the portion of property taxes going toward schools and a 4.4 percent increase in the portion going to the county government.

The 2014 tax rate would be $19.82 per $1,000 of assessed property value, up 2 percent from last year. Of that rate, $8.89 would go toward the city, $10.03 to the schools and 90 cents to the county.

"We are faced already, before we dive into the first page of our budget, with an increase to our mil rate," Mayor Will Clayton said. "…This only goes to show how strong we must be in our resolve. We technically are the last line of defense now for a tax increase within the city."

He encouraged residents to voice their opinions about the budget by coming to meetings and participating in the process. He said now is the time to be heard on the issues while the council is considering, reviewing and debating the budget.

"Our increased demand for revenues was driven primarily from debt service costs as we realized the debt incurred in FY '12 and with the approval of a sewer bond and a bond for improvements to the Recreation Building," Smith wrote in his memo on the budget. "Both were important and much-needed projects; however, they came at a price."

Assessed valuation of properties in the city is not expected to grow for this budget due to the soft real estate market and anticipated reductions in personal property taxes, Smith wrote.

Cost drivers included increases in contributions to the Maine Public Employee Retirement System and increased property and liability insurance costs.

To contain costs, the budget includes the following in proposed cuts:

  • Elimination of a vacant secretary position at the police department, $19.5K savings
  • Elimination of a full-time position in the recreation department, $20.8K savings
  • Changes to library schedule to reduce part-time hours, $11.6K savings
  • Delaying replacement of police department vehicle, $28K savings
  • Delaying funding to building reserve at fire department, $14.3K savings
  • Efficiency upgrades at the library, $12.5K savings
  • Restructured employee benefits through negotiation with the unions. City insurance cost share will go from 85/15 to 80/20 over a three-year period, $28K saved.

Smith called the delay in vehicle replacements a "stopgap measure."

The proposed budget could increase if the state government cuts the amount of revenue sharing that helps fund city services. This is money collected in Rockland through sales and other taxes that Augusta has historically shared with municipalities.

"We must also recognized that without any clear direction from Augusta on the future of Revenue Sharing and other funds traditionally dedicated for municipalities, we have based this budget on last year's figures," Smith said. "If Augusta breaks its historical commitments to the city of Rockland, we will be forced to implement curtailments, supplemental appropriations, or a combination of the two in order to re-balance this budget."

Courier Publications News Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at ddunkle@courierpublicationsllc.com or 594-4401.